Cambodian 'jungle woman' hospitalised
Fri, Oct 30, 2009

PHNOM PENH - Cambodia's "jungle woman", whose case gripped the country after she apparently spent 18 years living in a forest, has been hospitalised after refusing food, her father and a doctor said Friday.

Rochom P'ngieng, now 28, went missing as a little girl in 1989 while herding water buffalo in Ratanakkiri province around 600 kilometers (400 miles) northeast of the capital Phnom Penh.

The woman was brought from the jungle, naked and dirty, in early 2007 after being caught trying to steal food from a farmer. She was hunched over like a monkey, scavenging the ground for pieces of dried rice in the forest.

She could not utter a word of any intelligible language, instead making what Sal Lou, the man who says he is her father, calls "animal noises."

Cambodians described her as "jungle woman" and "half-animal girl."

Sal Lou told AFP by telephone on Friday that Rochom P'ngieng was admitted to the provincial hospital on Monday and had not adjusted to village life. "She has refused to eat rice for about one month. She is skinny now... She still cannot speak. She acts totally like a monkey. Last night, she took off her clothes, and went to hide in the bathroom," Sal Lou said.

"Her condition looks worse than the time we brought her from the jungle.

She always wants to take off her clothes and crawl back to the jungle," he added.

Doctor Hing Phan Sokunthea, director of Ratanakkiri provincial hospital, said the woman was "in a state of nerves".

"Doctors have injected her with medicine twice a day to treat nervous illness, but she still cannot control herself," he said.

Sal Lou told AFP his family found it difficult to house the woman, and he would appeal to charities to take over her care.

The jungles of Ratanakkiri - some of the most isolated and wild in Cambodia - are known to have held hidden groups of hill tribes in the recent past.

In November 2004, 34 people from four hill tribe families emerged from the dense forest where they had fled in 1979 after the fall of the genocidal Khmer Rouge regime, which they supported.

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